Wang Hui 汪晖, Tsinghua University professor and former editor of the influential journal Dushu 读书, is the leading voice of China’s New Left. His major works include Against Despair: Lu Xun and the Literary World 《反抗绝望：鲁迅及其文学世界》 (1991), Rekindling Frozen Fire 《死火重温》 (2000) and the four-volume The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought 《现代中国思想的兴起》 (2005).
Wang Hui’s scholarship has received considerable attention overseas. Works in English include The Politics of Imagining Asia (Harvard University Press, 2011), The End of the Revolution: China and the Limits of Modernity (Verso, 2009). In 2008, Foreign Policy named him one of the world’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals and in 2009 Die Zeit called him a ‘member of the global intellectual elite’, designations that frequently lead off the bio that accompanies his lecture notices within China.
Wang Hui, together with Huang Ping 黄平, edited Dushu from 1996 to 2007, a decade during which the journal expanded its focus beyond the cultural and social concerns that had established its reputation as a leading vehicle of theory-driven independent thought. Under Wang and Huang, Dushu became an influential forum for the discussion of social, political and cultural studies theory that irritated many of the journal’s long-time readers. ‘Liberals’ accused the editors of turning Dushu into a mouthpiece for an academic, neo-Marxist ‘New Left’.
In 2010, Wang Hui became embroiled in a plagiarism scandal when Wang Binbin 王彬彬 published a broadside against his academic work in the March issue of Literature and Art Studies 文艺研究. A condensed version later appeared in Southern Weekly 南方周末. Wang Binbin devoted the first half of his essay, ‘The Problem with Wang Hui’s Style of Scholarship–as exemplified in Against Despair” 《汪晖的学风问题——以《反抗绝望》为例》, to dissecting Wang Hui’s doctoral dissertation on Lu Xun, identifying mixed metaphors, vague claims and poor argumentation. The second half of the critique was far more damaging: Wang Binbin alleged that Wang Hui had plagiarized the work of numerous scholars.
More recently, following the downfall of Bo Xilai 薄熙来 in March 2012, Wang Hui contributed a piece to the London Review of Books (‘The Rumor Machine‘, 10 May 2012). In analysing the rumours surrounding the unfolding political scandal, Wang argued that the Chongqing Model developed under Bo was a genuine socialist reform that threatened the supporters of neoliberalism in China. He was critical of the central government led by Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao and implied that it was dominated by neoliberal thinking.